History Day brings hundreds of students to Cooperstown

Mark Boshnack | Staff WriterPelham Memorial High School junior Karla Pennetta looks over her exhibit on Jane Addams at the Farmers' Museum in Cooperstown on Monday. It was part of the state History Day competition.

A Cooperstown-based state competition brought out the love of history in its participants, several involved said Monday at the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown.

The Fenimore Art Museum and the Farmers' Museum hosted nearly 500 students from around New York on Monday’s History Day, according to a media release from the two organizations. They provided facilities for the event, along with the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and the Otesaga Resort Hotel.

Students in grades 6-12 used a variety of skills to produce “exceptional scholarship” for review by judges on topics related to an annual theme that, this year, was “Taking a Stand in History,” according to the release.

The two top entries in their categories were scheduled to be named at an awards ceremony at Cooperstown High School Monday afternoon, the release said. The results were not available by deadline.

The winners are eligible to compete in the National History Day contest at College Park, Maryland in June, said Erin Richardson, director of museum and library collections at the Fenimore. There are divisions for middle and high school students, she said. Some students participated as individuals and others on teams.

Special awards to students were also scheduled to be presented from local and state organizations.

Local schools participating included Cooperstown and Cherry Valley-Springfield Central, she said.

Presentations were in one of five categories, Richardson said: research paper, documentary, website, exhibit or performance.

About 150 historians and educators volunteered from around the state to serve as judges.

Another 50 volunteers helped with the logistics, Richardson said.

The competition is made possible by state funding obtained by Sen. James Seward. Financial assistance is also provided by the Gardner Foundation, she said.

One of those judging was state historian Devin Lander. This is his first year in both his state position and serving as a judge at the Cooperstown event.

“It’s been a great experience,” he said about Monday’s competition.

“Anytime you can get almost 500 students interested and engaged in history is fantastic,” he said. He worked on a team that judged projects about such subjects as child labor, school integration and social work, he said. “The quality was outstanding.”

Also judging was Evan Jagels, State University College at Oneonta academic support services coordinator. He helped judge performance entries.

“I had never seen this medium used in this way before,” he said. Students did "an excellent job” in interpreting significant historical characters and demonstrating their relevance to today, he said.

Student exhibits included one on author, journalist and activist Upton Sinclair, presented by Guilderland High School freshman Colin Ingraham. This was his second year at the state event. He chose his subject because Sinclair took a stand on important issues of his day, Ingraham said. Putting together a historical program and competing against others was “fun,” he said.

Mark Boshnack can be reached at mboshnack@thedailystar.com or (607) 432-1000 ext. 218. Also follow him at Twitter at @DS_MarkB.

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